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Back to school while still at work: 7 benefits of a continuing education

Anita P is the head designer at a lifestyle magazine managing a team of six. Four years into the job, as most publications began taking their print editions online, Anita realized she needed to upgrade her skills. So she enrolled in an online web design course and pursued it along with her day job. In less than a year, she was overseeing the transition of the magazine online while considering a career switch to full-time website design.

Anita isn’t alone in her pursuit. Continuing education is becoming increasingly popular among employees for a variety of reasons. The desire to learn an advanced or specialized skill, boost their CV, improve chances of a promotion or enable a career switch are some of the reasons why employees are opting to enrich their skills.

Unlike an adult education programme, which refers to school level education among adults, a continuing education programme is pursued by graduates and usually consists of short, part-time courses. There’s a wide variety of courses on offer, including traditional classroom lessons, online courses, a blended combination of online and offline programmes, self-study packages and live presentations. To choose the right one, evaluate your goals and expectations from the programme, ask seniors and peers for referrals and research the course and its reputation in the market.

One of the biggest benefits of a continuing education is that it can advance your career prospects. Here’s how:

It allows you to upskill
As you rise up the professional ladder, you will realize that the work skills you were hired for at the beginning don’t serve your purpose adequately anymore. A middle or senior level employee needs to develop managerial skills which include communication, critical thinking and problem solving, apart from an understanding of the company’s business model. At other times, you may feel the need for a specialized skill not related to management but nonetheless necessary to help you perform your duties efficiently. Enrolling for a continuing education programme may be the best way forward.

It keeps you up-to-date
Fields like medicine and IT are evolving all the time. They require people to be updated with the latest developments. If you are working in such a field, enrolling yourself in continuing education programmes regularly may be crucial if you want to remain relevant in your profession.

You’ll earn that promotion
Sometimes, you hit a glass ceiling which is impossible to breach unless you have the required qualifications. Continuing education will equip you with the right skills and help in the advancement of your career under such circumstances.

You’ll add value to your CV
Employees with higher qualifications are considered more valuable on the job market. Candidates with additional skills or qualifications have an upper hand while interviewing for job openings.

It opens doors to a new career
A lot of people think of changing careers mid-way. If you’re seriously considering changing your professional track or planning to quit your job to pursue a business venture of your own, a continuing education programme could be a big help.

You can negotiate a higher salary
Better qualifications equals more pay. This is a simple rule in the professional world which will also apply to you if you equip yourself with advanced skills or qualifications relevant to your job.

It’s a great way to network
A continuing education programme gives you a chance to meet new people from your industry and outside it. Apart from everything else, signing up for a continuing education course is a great way to network and you’ll form associations that will stand you in good stead in the years to come.

Top tips to choosing the right programme
• First, find the right programme by assessing your needs and personal and professional goals.

• Then, determine how much time can you devote to the programme. Are you pursuing it along with a job? Will your employers count it as a training programme and give you time off?
• Choose a programme that suits your learning style best. Do you prefer face-to-face interactions? Or is an online platform more convenient?
• Check if your company will pay for it.

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